Storm season in Southern Florida is no cakewalk.
More and more often we’re faced with tropical storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes which threaten not only our lives but also the homes we’ve worked so hard to own.
With storm season lasting from June through November, that’s a large window of opportunity for a storm to wreak havoc on your property.
It’s also the time of year when you really need to be able to rely on your outside air conditioner unit to deal with the heat and humidity of a typical Florida summer.
How can you best protect your outdoor HVAC unit? Keep reading for some handy tips.
Preparation Before a Storm
Taking the time to storm-proof your house before the storm season arrives in June will ensure that there is less clean-up to do after a hurricane or flooding occurs.
- Cover your outside air conditioner unit – The materials you use depends entirely on what the wind speed will be. In most cases a well-secured tarp will work just fine. If you live in an area with notoriously high storm winds, it might be wise to use plywood around your unit as well as a tarp. Plywood will act as a windbreak to keep it from being yanked off its base. It will also keep flying debris from damaging your outdoor unit.
- Store all loose yard items inside – This means everything, even that patio table you think is too heavy to move. Removing anything from your yard that may be blown into your air conditioner keeps it from being punctured. Punctured AC units can leak coolant, which will make you sick.
- Trim dead/dying tree branches – Tree branches are also likely to puncture your air conditioner if wind speeds are high. A large branch falling on the unit will destroy it and force you to replace it.
- Raise the air conditioner off the ground – FEMA suggests raising equipment, like outside air conditioning units, at least a foot above the flood elevation. Raising your AC unit another foot or two above the minimum suggestion will give you increased peace of mind. Brick platforms and cantilevered platforms are the best options. Wooden platforms with legs won’t last through the storm season. Wood rots after major storms. Also, the legs will catch debris during flooding, increasing the chance of the whole platform falling over.
- Secure the Hurricane Strapping and Bolts – While you’re outside covering the AC unit, take a moment to check that all the bolts and screws are tightened properly. Even if you use plywood to cover it, a loose air conditioner will still get swept away by the wind if it isn’t secured to its platform.
Sometimes an easy fix will do the trick. But in some cases, you may need to consider some semi-major building projects in order to make sure your outdoor unit isn’t destroyed.
If you do plan to build a new platform for your AC, check with your county, first. You will most likely need to get building permits. You will also need to find out what the base flood elevation is for your area in order to know exactly how high to raise your outdoor air conditioner unit.
During the Storm
Power outages are common during major storms. To preserve the life of your air conditioner, make sure the unit is off. If you’re hesitant to turn off all the power to your home, at least turn off the system via the thermostat and switch off the breaker box circuits for your air conditioner.
It may be tempting to run it for just a little while when things look calm, but you should resist the urge. Unpredictable storms could sweep back in at any moment. A power surge while your AC is running will fry the circuitry and may damage the air compressor.
After the Storm
Once you’ve made it through the storm safe and sound, that isn’t the end of making sure your outside air conditioner unit also survived.
Timeliness is important, here. While it may feel safe to let your unit sit for a few days, that increases the likelihood that mold and harmful bacteria will grow in the AC unit itself, as well as the ducts.
Here are some important steps to take before sitting back to enjoy your cool home:
- Remove all the tarps and plywood.
- Carefully check the unit for damage. Make sure to re-tighten any loose bolts and screws.
- Look around the air conditioner to see if you spot anything leaking from it. Should there be any mysterious liquid around it, bring in an HVAC expert to make sure it isn’t leaking coolant.
- Vacuum the filters to remove dust and other debris that may have blown into it.
- Carefully disinfect the unit to remove any mold that grew while it was off. If you aren’t sure how it’s best to ask a professional.
- If the unit seems okay, turn on the breakers and let it run.
- Listen for any odd noises. If your air conditioner makes any wheezing, thudding, or loud humming sounds, switch it off immediately and call in a professional to check it out.
If you experienced flooding during the storm and your outdoor HVAC unit was submerged, do not turn on the breakers and attempt to run it. It’s likely you will need to replace not only your outdoor AC unit, but also any ducts that were also submerged during the flooding.
Let Us Help You Protect Your Outside Air Conditioner Unit
Living in Fort Myers is eventful enough during the long summer months without worrying about your outside air conditioner unit and how it will weather the storms.
Even if you do follow all these steps, sometimes Mother Nature has other plans, but that’s why we’re here to help.
At Florida Heat & Air, we want to make sure you are as comfortable as possible all year long. We offer affordable repair and maintenance work done by certified-trained technicians.
Contact us today to learn more about our services.